Exodus 32:7 “And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
If you don’t believe the fallen nature is the total depravity of man, you will never understand why one needs to be born-again (John 3:3). The above account should be a WAKE UP call for those who think man is merely wounded, but not totally depraved, that Pelagian heresy which says man possesses the ABILITY to believe in Jesus. And make no mistake, it was the preincarnate Jesus who led the Israelites out of Egypt (Jude 1:5).
Remember the Israelites who for 40 years were in bondage, living in squalor and misery in Egypt, was just saved out of their slavery. They witnessed the Red Sea part before their eyes. They witnessed the POWER of God as the sea consumed the Egyptians pursuing them. Before this, they witnessed the power of God that Moses told Pharaoah of events that were about to happen, to the exact extent.
And yet, in the Wilderness just after this, they made themselves a golden calf and started worshipping it, almost immediately after their redemption from bondage. So not even the signs and wonders of God Himself could make them believe! This is a lesson in total depravity. Man left to the heart they are born with, will naturally reject the things of God, they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14).
Another example is the miracles of Jesus in the NT. He opened the eyes of the blind, cured the sick, cured the deaf, walked on water, calmed the sea, turned water into wine, and brought back the dead to life. Including Lazarus, who He brought back to life after 4 days of being in a tomb. These events were witnessed by the Pharisees and other religious leaders and the people of Israel in real time. They weren’t tales, but miracles right before their eyes. Now let’s look at total depravity with two examples.
Peter and Judas, called Apostles of Jesus were eye witnesses to all of Jesus’ miracles. No one could deny the most powerful miracle, Jesus brought back the dead to life, and they were right there witnessing these powerful events! An event only God could do. Then Peter went onto deny Jesus, 3 times just as Jesus prophesied, EVEN when Jesus told Peter he would deny Him. Judas went onto betray Jesus just as He prophesied, and disclosed to the Apostles including Judas. Both were fallen in nature, so their natural desire was to reject God EVEN UPON this witness they had!
So it is beyond reasoning when some claim that man doesn’t need to be regenerated/born-again FIRST in order have actual faith in Jesus. You simply would be like Peter before his regeneration, and Judas in his fallen nature if you claimed to follow Jesus without being born-again. It won’t take much for you to REJECT Him when pressed for your self-preservation!
The fact is Jesus could manifest His incarnation once again, perform many POWERFUL miracles in person, and He’d be swept aside by fallen man just as the Israelites did. This is the lesson of total depravity, which is the innate desire to REJECT the things of God, not to accept them, not to actually believe in Him.
I put it this way in the past, if the incarnate Jesus showed up at your door and said “follow Me”, meaning you’d leave your family, relationships, and career, sell everything, could you? If you weren’t born-again, you’d ask for more time, you’d ask question after question, you’d doubt Him, because this is NATURAL to the fallen nature. Don’t be deceived, many are merely just FANS of Jesus and I’d sadly say without equivocation that Elvis Presley has more devoted diehard fans than He does, again because of the TOTALLY DEPRAVED fallen nature of man and the lust for idolatry.
This is why Jesus said in John 3:3 that you cannot see the Kingdom UNLESS you are born-again. Some think they saw the Kingdom before that point, you are mistaken! Again, Peter and Judas ate with, slept with, traveled with Jesus in person, in real time, and they both rejected Jesus. Peter was then born-again, and only THEN he saw the Kingdom! Judas killed himself. So what makes you think you are somehow or were somehow more special? That you believed BEFORE God regenerated your heart? Or that man is not truly and totally depraved in that now man is not like mankind as I described in those Scriptural accounts?
If you get total depravity wrong, you will get the Gospel wrong, and you will unwittingly as well plant tares instead of seeds which lead to growth!